Feb 12

THE BLUEBELLS – “Young At Heart”

Popular79 comments • 9,599 views

#687, 3rd April 1993

bluebells Another song where hearing the original changes your perspective on it: as a Bananarama album track, “Young At Heart” is fizzy but unusually thoughtful, a vignette of a kid growing to understand her parents’ choices and compromises. Even at three minutes it runs out of ideas, but it’s a lovely, wise little song and – like all early Bananarama material – it brims with can-do enthusiasm.

Bobby Bluebell co-wrote that song and then worked it up into a hit, making two major changes – one his own, one proven otherwise in court. The bit that’s not his is the violin hook, contributed by Bobby Valentino. It’s immediately recognisable and has the unfortunate effect of pitching the redone “Young At Heart” into an unwinnable comparison with “Come On Eileen” – another fiddle-driven song about coming to terms with your parents’ lives. Even so, Valentino’s wandering violin lines are the best thing about the reworked version – switching from punchy to wistful, corny but at least not leaden.

Which is more than you can say for The Bluebells’ other addition – that lumbering chorus. “YUNG! At heart! You’re so – YU-UNG AT HEART!”. Ken McLuskey is a non-singer in the grand indiepop tradition, but unlike his rough contemporary Edwyn Collins he doesn’t have the clarity, wit, or phrasing to make up for it – he smears his way through the verses, obscuring them in favour of that bellowed refrain.

Together, the fiddle and the chorus were hooky enough to catch Volkswagen’s attention and dredge the song up from 80s limbo to irritate a whole new audience. To be honest, “Young At Heart” sounded OK rubbing shoulders with Cabaret Voltaire and JoBoxers at the fag-end of a cheap compilation tape – it was only weeks in the spotlight that made me come to hate it. But my newfound dislike of the song never faded, and I sometimes wondered why – since some of the things it does (fiddles, fresh-facedness) might be winners in another context. Finally hearing the original doesn’t improve the song, but it at least puts its failures into a kind of focus.



  1. 1
    anto on 6 Feb 2012 #

    Excellent review and one which pretty much takes the words out of my mouth. This sounds to me like Too-rye-ay on a budget and yes the lead vocals are off-puttingly stringy, blurry and slurry. His attempt at the high note on the ” Waaaaalk-out-that-door ” part is especially clumsy.
    I didn’t know until a few weeks ago that it was a Bananarama song.
    In which case it is at least the closest (not counting Shakespears Sister) that one the best loved groups not to have a number one came to the top.

  2. 2
    lonepilgrim on 7 Feb 2012 #

    I always seem to hear this in the background in pubs or on the radio where it has always seemed a fairly pleasant noise with a straightforward hook. I can’t imagine wanting to sit down and listen to it but I don’t feel the animosity or irritation expressed by Tom.
    I had no idea about its Bananarama provenance but I will now go and investigate.

    OK – that’s a bit wan. An incisive telling of the story of the song here:


  3. 3
    thefatgit on 7 Feb 2012 #

    Thank the stars I’m not alone in regarding this as wallpaper. YAH only works as a jukebox tune in The Queen Vic, or background noise on a factory floor, where the machinists only sing along with the chorus and mumble the rest. It’s the wailing violin that makes me want to rush for the exit. That’s my fault rather than Bobby Valentino’s, who by all accounts was something of a character on stage with Hank Wangford. The Bluebells, and Bananarama hit the jackpot with this one, didn’t they? Volkswagen soundtracked their Golf campaign which propelled it to the top of the charts. Score one more for the Suits.

  4. 4
    flahr on 7 Feb 2012 #

    3? 3? Gosh. At least a 6 for this: brimming over with enthusiasm, it’s true that it’s not really a song so much as it is a collection of hooks (the magnificently dizzy violin, “waaaalk out the door”, “you’re soooooo”) but three-and-a-half minutes doesn’t seem too much for it to ask.

    Elsewhere on the CD single: “Cath” sounds, unsurprisingly, a lot more indie, very Aztec Camera, and is less lithe than YAH but still pretty enjoyable. And then for the benefit of Dexy’s-watch, “The Patriot Game” starts “Come all you young rebels”…

  5. 5
    23 Daves on 7 Feb 2012 #

    Eesh, this is a song that never fails to set my teeth on edge, to the point where I’d probably rather not consider it in too much detail for fear it becomes an unlikable earworm. Tom’s criticisms are pretty much spot on, but interestingly it’s a song I can’t remember anyone ever liking – my friends and I spent many long, hard hours thinking about who the hell was buying this record, and couldn’t come up with any answers. I’ve always considered it to be a single that proves that the right tune with the right advert can perform miracles chartwise – The Bluebells sound couldn’t have been more out-of-date for 1993 if it tried, really (short of being a minimalist synth-pop number). It even broke the “old songs from only one decade ago are not cool and should not be revived yet” rule, and even Dexy’s and Rowland had long since moved away from that kind of punchy Celtic noise, and it just stuck out like a sore thumb. An unwelcome sore thumb at that.

    I can’t remember any of The Bluebells other songs, although I was unfortunate enough to be aware of this particular one both times it was released. Did they ever produce anything a bit more bearable?

  6. 6
    weej on 7 Feb 2012 #

    I was ready to defend this, but a re-listen shows Tom to be spot-on. The fairly ok Bananarama song is buried beneath the “YOOOOOOUNG AT HEART” and the fiddly-diddly-dee (the half-arsed solo of which must be the song’s low point).
    The reason this got to number one was surely that it still sounds pretty good in very short bursts. For a jingle I would give it an 8. For a song, yes, 3 seems fair.

  7. 7
    swanstep on 7 Feb 2012 #

    New to me. So is this the closest thing to a Postcard records/OJ/Aztec Cam #1? Or have I forgotten something? Rip it up and start again… (that should squish any YAH earworms).

  8. 8
    Erithian on 7 Feb 2012 #

    Going to have to side with flahr at #4 on this one, and really I find it hard to understand the antagonism many people feel towards it – maybe it derives from the fact it was only a number one after a bit of corporate whoring, having reached number 8 on its own merits in the summer of 1984? (The seven ahead of it: Frankie, neil, Frankie again, Prince, Tina, Cyndi, Grandmaster.) Fairground Attraction’s “Perfect”, a similarly foppish type of sound which was also used as an advert albeit after being No 1, was also panned by many on here, and looking back at that thread I see someone filed it next to “Young At Heart” as a “horrible song” even then.

    I love Bananarama deeply, and always enjoy seeing their girl-gang image forever young and optimistic, but their original was justifiably an album track. The bits weej says bury it are the very strengths of the cover version – the chorus you can bellow along to and the Bobby Valentino hook (and no wonder he pursued a songwriting credit, it wouldn’t have been anything like the hit it was without him). Thanks to lonepilgrim for that One Show clip btw.

    Those intervening years between the original hit and the number one produce a telling contrast in my case – in 1984 I’d just finished finals, hadn’t yet got my results and the summer was a bit of a breeze, by 1993 I was dealing with job, mortgage and the illness of someone close to me. I’d only just turned 30 so “Young At Heart” wasn’t exactly a desperate means of clinging on to youth, but still a reminder of a more carefree time! (Anyone remember them going “Shabba!” on TOTP?)

    Oh, and it looks like I get to be the first to mention the bass player Lawrence Donegan, whose career path is not quite as bizarre as Professor Brian Cox’s but is still remarkable. From the Bluebells to Lloyd Cole and the Commotions, to working as assistant to Brian Wilson (the MP not the Beach Boy of course) and recording an anti-poll tax song with David Hill (later Tony Blair’s press spokesman), then becoming a columnist on the Guardian and now the paper’s golf correspondent. I wonder if Tom and/or the Swede have met him in a professional capacity?

  9. 9
    Billy Smart on 7 Feb 2012 #

    TOTPWatch. The Bluebells performed ‘Young at Heart’ on Top of the Pops on seven occasions. Details of the Christmas 1993 edition shall be provided anon;

    28 June 1984. Also in the studio that week were; The Human League, Alison Moyet and Scritti Politti. Steve Wright & Andy Peebles were the hosts.

    12 July 1984. Also in the studio that week were; Shakatak, Neil, Echo & The Bunnymen and Frankie Goes To Hollywood. John Peel & Tommy Vance were the hosts.

    25 March 1993. Also in the studio that week were; Sybil, Jade, Robin S, Cliff Richard, Lulu & Bobby Womack and Shaggy. Tony Dortie was the host.

    1 April 1993. Also in the studio that week were; Capella, Mica Paris and Barry Manilow, plus a live performance from Glasgow by Bruce Springsteen. Mark Franklin was the host.

    15 April 1993. Also in the studio that week were; East 17, Dr Albarn, Cappella, Terence Trent D’arby, Sonia and World Party. Mark Franklin was the host.

    22 April 1993. Also in the studio that week were: Voice Of The Beehive & Jimmy Somerville, New Order, Sub Sub featuring Melanie Williams, Deacon Blue and Janet Jackson, plus a live performance by satellite from Silk in New York.

  10. 10
    Billy Smart on 7 Feb 2012 #

    Light Entertainment Watch;

    All of The Bluebells’ UK TV appearances on the list date back to their initial period of success;

    THE KRANKIES KLUB: with Bobby Davro, Spare Parts, Al Dean, The Bluebells (1984)

    THE OLD GREY WHISTLE TEST: with The Psychedelic Furs, The Bluebells (1982)

    THE TUBE: with Jools Holland, Paula Yates, Mel Smith, Jimmy Nail, Tona De Brett, Richard Strange, Little Richard, Charles White, Balaam and The Angel, The Bluebells (1985)

    WEEKEND: with Paul Jones (Presenter), David Jason, Sue Robbie (Presenter), The Bluebells, Ted Robbins (Presenter) (1984)

  11. 11
    chelovek na lune on 7 Feb 2012 #

    Afraid I have to join the pack of those who found this a bit…pedestrian, I suppose, and far from classic no 1 material. I thought “Cath” marginally better first time round, and still do, even if rhyming “Cath” with “laugh” verges on being if not actually a shooting offense then at least something one would excuse only of Lisa Stansfield.

    #4 “The Patriot Game”?! Good Lord. That Irish Republican classic. In real life I was named after its author, and think it is, by far, the best thing he ever wrote (“McAlpine’s Fusiliers” being second almost by default). Do they really sing the lyrics about joining the IRA (Ok technically not the same one that was bombing and murdering its way across England in the eary 80s, but, still). Presumably they omit some of the other lyrics omitted all by the more hardliners? I have no desire to listen to this, but am kind of intrigued.It’s not as if the Bluebells were alone among pop stars in holding questionable political judgement…

  12. 12
    Rory on 7 Feb 2012 #

    I’d never heard this before, or the Bananarama original, and find both of them utterly pedestrian. Not hateful, but nothing I’d want to hear again, so 3 sounds about right.

  13. 13
    will on 7 Feb 2012 #

    Young At Heart is a cheery bit of fluff that sounded great blasting out of car radios both during the warm summer of ’84 and the unusually warm April we had in ’93. It’s no classic, but few could have begrudged the way the band dealt with their 15 minutes back in the spotlight. They obviously had a lot of fun doing those TOTP appearances and once it was over promptly disappeared again, without bothering us with a tour, new material or even another re-release as a follow up.

    But yes, it does grate after a while doesn’t it? For me, I’m Falling was their best single, an absolute classic that I’m surprised hasn’t yet been used prominently in a film or TV series.

  14. 14
    JonnyB on 7 Feb 2012 #

    I’m siding with the ‘can’t understand the particular antipathy’ party on this one. Pleasant and jaunty enough; not something I’d buy, but not something I’d switch off in exasperation.

    I see the comparison (#8) with Fairground Attraction. Perhaps there is something a bit calculatedly ‘let’s tick the boxes’ about both productions, and I can see that being irritating. But this one, methinks, has a little more soul to it. Higher than a 3 for me.

  15. 15
    punctum on 7 Feb 2012 #

    The singer was Ken McCluskey, whom I used to know, not Bobby Bluebell.

    When criticising a record it’s helpful to get the facts right.

  16. 16
    Tom on 7 Feb 2012 #

    When correcting it’s helpful to be gracious. But thankyou!

  17. 17
    Kat but logged out innit on 7 Feb 2012 #

    This song was MASSIVELY IMPORTANT/HEARTBREAKING to me in 1993, because at the end of year disco it was the only song where N1cky H4yd3n danced with me, which I took to be a sign that he obviously fancied me too, only to subsequently discover he thought I was completely mental. Fair enough but STILL ;_;

  18. 18
    Erithian on 7 Feb 2012 #

    B-b-but that’s what we like about you!

  19. 19
    ace inhibitor on 7 Feb 2012 #

    I can see the Dexys comparision, but in my head something about this tune always blends with / morphs into Radio Gaga

    Which is another reason not to like it very much (right-wing folkie-indie-jangle panto not being my thing)

  20. 20
    Cumbrian on 7 Feb 2012 #

    I think it’s got an undeniably strong violin hook, inasmuch as having heard the track it has been going round and round in my head for days and I can’t shift it. There is a skill to that I reckon. Much of what I had to say has been hit though and I’m not going to cover old ground.

    Unfortunately, I don’t like it going round and round in my head for days on end and, as such, I’m piling in and calling this pretty irritating. Not as irritating as some of the real clunkers that have been covered here – but still pretty bad. I recognise I am not being all that fair but I don’t think there is much you can do when something just sticks to the point of driving you to distraction. My Dad’s earworm was Fur Elise and as a result, he couldn’t stand that either.

    Other observations.

    #3: “Score one for the suits”. Given what many of our pop stars wear nowadays, I’d bet “the suits” at the creative agency are more likely to be dressed on the bleeding edge of fashion/in hipster tat – especially if my dealings with ad agencies are any indication.

    #5: “I’ve always considered it to be a single that proves that the right tune with the right advert can perform miracles chartwise” – spolier bunnies obviously abound here but I think providing music for ads/jingles for ads is a neglected musical skill. Producing pieces of music that are simple, short, memorable, identifiable, etc, should, you’d think, provide a grounding in producing successful/popular songs. Have there been many artists who have gone from commercial jingle production into successful recording careers? The only one I can think of is Justin Hawkins from The Darkness (who funded the recording of their first record out of his earnings from an Ikea commercial if the internet is to be believed).

  21. 21
    thefatgit on 7 Feb 2012 #

    #20 Of course you’re right Cumbrian. I’m sure the creative poppets at (insert agency here…) are wearing anything but suits. I like “suits” as shorthand for the faceless corporate entities who have on various occasions, occupied the top of the charts, whether it’s representatives for Levi’s or Coca-Cola or Volkswagen as is the case with The Bluebells here. Judging by the picture accompanying Tom’s piece, it would seem London Records were in cahoots with the Suits, so to speak.

    Big Business encroaching into the charts was covered by Tom in his “1987 What The F**k Is Going On” essay, a while back.

  22. 22
    Mark G on 7 Feb 2012 #

    #20 as per usul, it depends on what you call a “successful” career. David Dundas had a bunch of hits after “Jeans On” for instance..

  23. 23
    23 Daves on 7 Feb 2012 #

    #22 David Dundas also went on to compose most of the score for “Withnail and I”, a fact I suspect is probably quite well known, but I never tire of repeating it.

  24. 24
    Steve Mannion on 7 Feb 2012 #

    I kinda wish they’d modified the car bumper sign on the sleeve so it said “TOP HIT IN ENGLAND”.

    The singer himself made more of an unexpected and brighter second day in the sun by dropping words from other hits of the time into the end of YAH performances on TOTP including a brogue-tastic “TECHNO TECHNO…” and “SHABBAA”.

    Thus, McCLuskey accrues partial blame for Chris Martin AND George Lamb >:[

    With the early 90s charts having been festooned with re-releases from only 10-15 years before (tho they seemed practically medieval to me then – long past vs short past and all that) AND ad-exposed older songs this was an inevitable double whammy. But can you imagine a modern equivalent in which Alien Ant Farm’s ‘Movies’ or Aqualung’s ‘Strange And Beautiful’ or Love Inc’s ‘You’re A Superstar’ tops the charts off the back of a heartstring-yanking ad for being confused about operatic meerkats buying any car? Not quite.

  25. 25
    Matt DC on 7 Feb 2012 #

    This a terrible record and I hated it at the time, I’m pretty sure this is the first time I can remember hearing a record and thinking “this isn’t what the 90s was supposed to be about”. It did seem ancient at the time.

  26. 26
    will on 7 Feb 2012 #

    Didn’t that Aqualung song become a hit from being featured in an ad in the first place?

  27. 27
    Steve Mannion on 7 Feb 2012 #

    Indeed Will. But we’re long into the age where a song bumped by use in one ad ends up featuring in another for a completely different product a few years later, as has happened recently with an old song that already topped the charts in remixed form off the back of an ad (AND film soundtrack iirc) 10 years before. “Well it worked before/people remember this and it’s cheap” seems to be the lazy stupid thinking.

  28. 28
    Alan not logged in on 7 Feb 2012 #

    I think the music and the vocal are miles better than the bananarama original, which feels limp by comparison. My mum loved this version (I don’t think we realised it was a cover) when it was first out (84 did someone say, sounds right). She had the album, and may even have been to an gig. I found it enjoyable enough – as much as a 15 yr old could find his mum’s music – and was rather baffled by the ad-based resurrection years later. For some reason I associate it with gay rights – i have no idea why. Maybe it was a mid-80s geordie lefties thing.

  29. 29
    thefatgit on 7 Feb 2012 #

    Aqualung’s was VW as well IIRC. And 1993 is the year Mazzy Star’s “Into Dust” is released. That song alone probably represents David and Hope’s pension fund in Ad revenue, I expect.

  30. 30
    wichita lineman on 7 Feb 2012 #

    Had no idea this was written by all three members of Bananarama PLUS Bobby Bluebell (and, ahem, Bobby Valentino). I remember Edwyn Collins thinking the Bluebells were a bunch of usurpers and the ‘Nanas version does sound reminiscent of Orange Juice’s Holiday Hymn.

    As for Glen Ponder-lookalike Valentino, though… it’s a hook, but it’s also the most irritating part of the song. And he was doing session work – have some dignity and roll with the punches, man! Did anyone ask you for their £75 back on all the flops you worked on?

    I wonder if anyone ever chased a writing credit after doing remix work? Anyone know?

    The verse and bridge of YAH are perfectly pleasant. The chorus is bellowed and awful. The 1983 single Cath, possibly their best song, had a similar, unnecessary terrace chant production on the chorus. As did the less good follow-up Sugar Bridge. I wonder if this was the group’s idea or the producer’s? Who DID produce the Bluebells anyway?

    I’m all questions today.

  31. 31
    Tommy Mack on 7 Feb 2012 #

    How much does a songwriter actually get for licensing a song to an advert? I’d have thought it’s more money than most middle-of-the-afternoon-at-a-festival status bands make in a year, but hardly a retirement fund.

    I bought this on 7″ for about 29p in a Woolworths sale (one of the first singles I ever bought). Wasn’t really one of my favourites at the time. Haven’t really though about it since. Nice enough, nothing remarkanble 4-5 for me.

  32. 32
    wichita lineman on 7 Feb 2012 #

    Re 31: It really varies. I know someone, now a Ghost Box artist, who was paid what I thought was a tiny amount from an Orange ad. I had a co-write on a song used in a L’oreal ad, used for a few weeks, which paid my mortgage for the next three years. It depends if it’s shown locally or internationally, and I imagine the YAH VW ad would only have been shown in the UK.

  33. 33

    The “how much” surely depends on how widely/often/long the ad airs? Initial fee for licensing wil vary (what price yr soul!); then mechanicals relate directly to the number of actual plays; and then of course all the extra sales (and radio-plays) courtesy revived interest…

  34. 34
    wichita lineman on 7 Feb 2012 #

    NOW! watch: We’re onto Now! 24 and YAH gets the prime spot. Sub Sub and Snap are both 8 or 9’s for me that fell one place short of Popular. YAH would be the worst song on an otherwise very consistent and entertaining comp if it wasn’t for the dreadful Hue & Cry (anyone remember why THIS was re-issued?):

    Now! 24, Disc 1

    The Bluebells : “Young at Heart”
    Take That : “Could It Be Magic”
    Sub Sub feat. Melanie Williams : “Ain’t No Love (Ain’t No Use)”
    Snap : “Exterminate!”
    Sister Sledge : “We Are Family”
    Snow : “Informer”
    Shabba Ranks with Chevelle Franklin : “Mr. Loverman”
    Shaggy : “Oh Carolina”
    East 17 : “Deep”
    Stereo MCs : “Step It Up”
    Arrested Development : “Tennessee”
    Robin S : “Show Me Love”
    Lulu : “Independence”
    West End featuring Sybil : “The Love I Lost”
    2 Unlimited : “No Limit”
    Cappella : “U Got 2 Know”
    Sunscreem : “Pressure Us”
    Monie Love : “Born 2 B.R.E.E.D.”
    Hue & Cry : “Labour of Love”

  35. 35
    Steve Mannion on 7 Feb 2012 #

    Weird to have a Now bookended by 80s hits in that way. I’ll take LOL (re-released purely to promote the ‘best of’ compilation?) over YAH tho (and Lulu’s ‘Independence’ just sounded like a lame Lisa Stansfield reject). Everything else there is pretty good to great!

  36. 36
    JLucas on 7 Feb 2012 #

    There’s a sense of forced jollity to this song that I absolutely cannot bear.

    It’s like one of those godawful pub singalongs where half of the participants are secretly thinking of killing themselves.

    I put Perfect in the same bracket.

    Nice that it keeps Bananarama in red wine expensive dinners with Janet Street-Porter and the Pet Shop Boys, but beyond that it’s a no from me.

  37. 37
    Steve Mannion on 7 Feb 2012 #

    I like that you get a violin solo on this at least (altho not sure it’s a particularly pleasant one). “Monster!” as Nigel Kennedy often said for some reason (to annoy Eric Hall? hope so).

  38. 38
    wichita lineman on 7 Feb 2012 #

    Rec 35: Yes, Independence was pretty flat, but I still prefer it to “Winthrop, my bay-beh!” as a friend of mine thought Hue & Cry were singing.

  39. 39
    glue_factory on 7 Feb 2012 #

    Re: 32. That’s made my afternoon! Every time that advert came on I would fume how they’d ripped you off.

  40. 40
    Tom Lawrence on 7 Feb 2012 #

    No particular at-the-time memories of this, I’m afraid – it shows up in my memory as one of those tracks which didn’t seem to need inventing, just an elemental fact.

    Which is not to say that is either good or essential, just that I can’t quite imagine a pop universe in which the words “Young at Heart” would not make me instantly think of that chorus.

    I’m not sure if that ability to claim ownership of a phrase counts as a skill or not. I mean, a terrible record can still become inextricably linked to a word or phrase, but whether there’s a certain genius in spotting these linguistic latch points and exploiting them for maximum brain colonization.

    Come to think, what short idiomatic phrases or cliches aren’t also instantly recognizable as linked to some pop song? I mean, the whole of English phraseology is a broad field so there must be some, but what are some of the obviously uncolonized gaps?

  41. 41
    LondonLee on 7 Feb 2012 #

    Loved ‘Cath’ (still do, terrible rhymes and all) but always found this annoyingly peppy and hearty, like being dragged against your will into a conga line at a family party.

  42. 42
    punctum on 7 Feb 2012 #

    #34: I have to say that track listing is virtually a standard Radio 1 playlist for the time. I think there was a Hue & Cry best of to promote but I’m saying nothing against the Coatbridge pre-post-modernist brothers.

    The McCluskey brothers, a.k.a. Ken on vocals and Dave on drums, I knew as “Stan” and “Aber” respectively from their time in Raw Deal, Bothwell’s number one punk band (well, where was the competition, some cruel people might ask but I retort GAH!). They used to do things like “Bothwell’s Burning” (i.e. the Clash’s “London’s Burning” with altered lyrics) and “I’m Gonna Pogo All Over Your Head,” which began life as an improvisation on Emerson Lake & Palmer’s cover of “Nut Rocker.” Many’s the time I witnessed their fulsome rehearsals in “Storky’s Garage” and I even joined in on a couple of numbers, e.g. “White Riot” and “Mongoloid” (a lot of spectators were impressed by the fact that I knew the lyrics of “White Riot”!). Then everything and everyone moved on as things and people do but the McCluskey boys eventually hooked up with Bobby Bluebell and the rest you know (a fertile period, the early eighties; Friends Again were also from Bothwell and a year above me at school – they eventually bisected into the Bathers [Chris Thomson] and Love & Money [everybody else plus James Grant]. “Honey At The Core” – what a record).

    “Young At Heart” was a bit too eighties for me, production-wise (I probably did prefer the Bananarama variant), but I begrudged them none of their success and was very pleased and proud when it eventually went to number one, allowing Ken to go on TOTP in white tuxedo and chant “TECHNO TECHNO TECHNO TECHNO!” during the fiddle break. Magnificent stuff.

    Also Ken and Dave were still saying hello to me in the street in ’84 while “I’m Falling” was climbing the charts – that has stuck with me and I’ll always stand by them. Their subsequent militant folk-indie work as the McCluskey Brothers is feverishly underrated.

    N.B.: the other two members of Raw Deal were Dixie Deans on bass and Leon Trotsky on guitar.

    (It occurred to me that this was roughly parallel with the East Kilbride movement – Reid bros, B Gillespie, Roddy Frame – but since I didn’t grow up in EK I can’t comment on the parallels.)

  43. 43
    Another Pete on 7 Feb 2012 #

    34: Seeing “We are family” in addition to YAH and Hue & Cry on that Now CD reminded me that 1993 was the year to release your greatest hits, for the first time on CD. With this in mind, perhaps YAH wasn’t as stark a comparison to the overall sound of 1993 as we might think. Most of these albums had a track that was a ’93 remix’ of their classic which usually meant shoehorning in a ‘Eurodance’ beat to sound , now.

    One thing is for certain some 10 years after the advert was made the VW Golf used wouldn’t of had Young at Heart blaring out of its speakers. Not that its speakers then would of been the same, nor the elaborate paintwork and body kit.

  44. 44
    AndyPandy on 7 Feb 2012 #

    @40 – but for an earlier generation/those not up on 90s chart pop/those outside the UK and if it makes them think of any song at all it would probably be the ‘Young At Heart’ made famous by Frank Sinatra and covered by many others (Tony Bennett, Perry Como, Bing Crosby, Barry Manilow, The Cure (!) etc).

  45. 45
    Billy Hicks on 7 Feb 2012 #

    Sorry, but I love this and always have. The violin hook, the epic singalong chorus, the demented middle 8 when the violin goes everywhere…it’s just an awesome feel-good song. I’d give it an 8.

    Out of the Now 23 list, an underrated classic is Sunscreem’s pounding rave anthem “Pressure Us”, which although amazing sounded a year or two out of date by now (the heavy piano mutating into synthy Eurodance) and so stalled at number 19.

  46. 46
    Peter on 7 Feb 2012 #

    I thought you might like to know that Bobby Valentino received very little in the way of royalties. Both the publishers and PRS (Performing Right Society) claim that they failed to collect any royalties and there is less than 10% of the expected performance royalties for “Young at Heart”on the statements.

    Amazingly, there are quite a lot of documents contradicting the claims of PRS and some people have begun calling them the Publisher’s Rip-off Society.

  47. 47
    Alan not logged in on 7 Feb 2012 #

    Kat to thread

  48. 48
    Rob M on 7 Feb 2012 #

    Regarding PRS… I read an interview with Dave Clarke in which he was asked how much influence John Peel’s patronage was worth and he replied to the effect that Peel sorted out his PRS for him, in that PRS claimed he wasn’t played on the radio but Peel provided data on when Clarke’s songs were played and passed it to PRS who then had to start paying him. Sorry to digress.

    Always preferred “Cath”. Was it about being seduced by a teacher?

  49. 49
    enitharmon on 7 Feb 2012 #

    The title meant nothing to me so I tracked it down on YouTube. Hey, it’s not earth-shattering or anything but 3 seems very harsh. For me it’s worth at least a 6. I might change my mind in 24 hours however because I suspect it has severe earworm potential.

    I don’t know that comparisons with Dexys are entirely fair. The ceilidh is surely not that far away but in any case I thought there was something almost primeval (in pop terms): it wouldn’t be entirely out of place in the immediate pre-beatles charts. One can almost sense it fading in and out of Radio Luxembourg under the bedsheets,

  50. 50
    chelovek na lune on 7 Feb 2012 #

    Hmm, having just tracked down their version of “The Patriot Game”…I really can’t be polite about it. They certainly watered down the lyrics – very much so – and apart from one reference to the IRA (“old” rather than “bold”, too) – did their best to remove anything contentious at all elsewhere, changing “Quislings” to “rebels” and omitting entirely more controversial verses…..in which case, I say, why bother? Complete mismash, musically not inoffensive, yeah yeah, somewhere between Orange Juice, Lloyd Cole, Friends Again, but really….why start performing such a song if you are going to almost completely remove its meaning? They didn’t have to mean it, but they could have sounded like they did…

    I see the first comment on one of the Youtube postings of “Cath” is “Bay City Rollers of the 80s”….. harsh, but not that unfair….

  51. 51
    hilker on 8 Feb 2012 #

    “Have there been many artists who have gone from commercial jingle production into successful recording careers?”

    Barry Manilow is probably the most notable example.

  52. 52
    Mutley on 8 Feb 2012 #

    Re 51. Possibly even more notable was Elvis Presley, who in 1954 apparently (I copied this information from memphis.about.com) performed a jingle for a radio commercial for Southern Maid Donuts. The jingle he sang was, “You can get ’em piping hot after four p.m., you can get ’em piping hot. Southern Maid Donuts hit the spot, you can get ’em piping hot after four p.m.”
    The commercial aired during a broadcast of “Louisiana Hayride” in 1954 and was never re-released. While no copies of this recording are known to exist with any certainty, a couple of individuals over the years have claimed to be in possession of the recording.

  53. 53
    swanstep on 8 Feb 2012 #

    Luther Vandross is another person who started off making jingles.

    The Shangri-las compilation/best of record, The Myrmidons of Melodrama (magnificent title!), includes one of their post-success radio jingles for Revlon.

  54. 54

    There’s a terrific Shirelles radio ad for coca-cola (I think *not* the one on youtube, they did more than one): interesting not least bcz it reminds us that the borderlines between pop and jingles were once much more porous than they afterwards became…

  55. 55
    Cumbrian on 8 Feb 2012 #

    This is all really interesting (at least to me), so thanks for the replies. That Shangri-Las jingle is pretty decent I think – and makes me realise how close to the mark some of The Who Sell Out is – which I hadn’t realised before.

    Also, never listened to Barry Manilow by choice – but his Wiki page section on his commercial work makes me want to seek out his “Very Special Medley” that he used to play in concerts. Seems he was proud of how he’d come up – good for him.

  56. 56
    wichita lineman on 8 Feb 2012 #

    Coca Cola managed to get jingles out of pretty much everyone in the 60s:


    My favourite is Robin Gibb’s super bleak effort (not on youtube), which is about as close to a conventional Coke advert as Woody Allen’s Interiors:

    “Another cold and windy day
    The birds are homing, too cold to stay
    And now I feel my mind is turning
    And think of times when I would laugh
    I open up some Coke and smile
    And then my mind’s free, for a while”

  57. 57
    Cumbrian on 8 Feb 2012 #

    These are fantastic – personal favourites thus far are the Ray Charles and Aretha Franklin one and the Tom Jones one.

    That Robin Gibb one sounds incredible too – it basically sounds like Coke just said to all of these artists, “do what you like, so long as you mention Coke positively, it’s all good”

  58. 58

    Didn’t know that Golden Earring were originally The Golden Earrings

    (always intrigued by the meaning of this particular nominal evolution: eg Geroge Clinton’s late-doors doowop group The Parliaments became Parliament…)

  59. 59

    and haha VANILLA FUDGE! I love Vanilla Fudge.

  60. 60
    swanstep on 8 Feb 2012 #

    Wow, thanks for that playlist link wichita! Amazing (and a little frightening too – I’d no idea that Coke *so* completely carpet-bombed pop music). Petula Clark’s, 5th Dimension’s, and Boxtops’ jingles are my faves so far.

  61. 61
    swanstep on 8 Feb 2012 #

    And the Vanilla Fudge ad!!! Holy crap that’s great. Must drink more coke….

  62. 62
    wichita lineman on 8 Feb 2012 #

    Twenty thousand disembodied eyes…

  63. 63

    The Man can’t bust our music!!

    Weren’t Coke — slightly later — the first multi-national corporation to help themselves to full-on counter-culture ideals and imagery (viz “I’d like to teach the world to sing…”)?

  64. 64
    LondonLee on 8 Feb 2012 #

    Then there’s Dusty Springfield singing about Mother’s Pride

  65. 65
    Mark M on 8 Feb 2012 #

    Re 63: not if you subscribe to Tom Frank’s version of the relationship between the counterculture and advertising.

  66. 66

    Yes, I wasn’t adverting (ha!) to that: hence “full-on” (also to be truthful I’d forgotten about it)… the counterculture I meant was largescale utopian hippie rather than micro-niche hipster, ie the genuinely popular EVERYONE UNITE stuff that almost immediately became UNcool again, to later hipsters.

    (of course Frank may deal with this: I’ve really only encountered his ideas second or third hand, in which I form I always want to smush them up as being smugly over-simplistic — which may well be the fault of elements of his fan-club)

  67. 67
    JLucas on 8 Feb 2012 #

    Oh God I thought this was just me, but Mama Cass’s radio jingles for US Burger chain Hardees are almost as much fun as her hits. There’s a key change and everything!


    “Who needs cocktail parties?
    Baby you need Hardees!

    Hurry on down to Hardees
    You get a real good feeling inside
    You can taste that charcoal flavour
    In a burger that’s broiled not fried
    With all the things you’ve got to do
    Why not relax and just be you
    Hurry on down to Hardees
    You get a real good feelin’ inside!”

  68. 68
    Mark M on 8 Feb 2012 #

    Re 66: I rate him, and in the case of The Conquest Of Cool he’s (literally*) done his homework – it’s full of detail rather than sweeping claims. Although you argue he’s much more interested in advertising than the counterculture itself worked.

    *As in the book is based on his PhD work.

  69. 69

    Probably I should read him, as it’s entirely stuff I’m fascinated by. At this distance I’m fairly unimpressed by the word “conquest”, since it appears to assume an initial claim — about vanguard art’s former imperishable purity, whether as “is” or “ought” — which I think is deeply silly*: but again, he may well explore this at length.

    *Bohemians were never not in an ambiguous zone: and this is why what they make and do is interesting.

  70. 70
    Mark M on 8 Feb 2012 #

    Re 69: I think you misunderstand the title – cool is conquering Madison Av and by way of this American mass culture, not Mad Av conquering cool.

    But also:

    ‘If we really want to understand American culture in the sixties, we must acknowledge at least the possibility that the co-opters had it right, that Madison Avenue’s vision of the counterculture was in some ways correct.’

  71. 71

    s/b “The Conquest BY Cool” then :p

    ^^^SPOILERS: Spain won

  72. 72

    yikes that was 20 times bigger than intended :(

    update: ok that’s a bit better

  73. 73
    swanstep on 8 Feb 2012 #

    Perhaps Frank had Hollywood in mind.

  74. 74
    ace inhibitor on 10 Feb 2012 #

    just picking up on tomlawrence@40, and the way pop uses/colonises the idioms of everyday language – Simon Frith writes somewhere or other about songs ‘working on ordinary language’ – in the double sense of deriving some of their effect and connection from that apparent everydayness, but also that they rework the language, making the familiar strange again. (Personally I can forgive SAW a lot for the way they smuggled such middle-aged geezerish phrases as ‘i should be so lucky’ and ‘better the devil you know’ into kylie’s ouvre.)

    And thinking on that there IS something strange going on in YAH isnt there? As a phrase or claim ‘You’re so young at heart’ implies precisely that you are not young, anymore, and I’d always assumed that the audience hailed by this song was the nostalgic no-longer-young listening to new CDs of their teenage singles on the stereo of their new Golf. (not least because I was a version of that person myself,in 1993, just with an older car and different records). But then whats going on in the verses? Genuine question as they don’t make a lot of sense to me, but ‘young at heart / yet what a start / old before their time /they married young / yet not a chance / to be a child at all’ and so on feels vaguely like we’re in Too Much Too Young territory. And there’s a whole confusion of ‘us'(they told us lies) ‘them’ and ‘you’ in the lyrics that makes the singers position in relation to this narrative ambiguous to say the least.

    So, 2 possibilities: 1) the lyrics were written in half an hour, back of a fag packet stylee, cobbled together from loosely connotative phrases, and my attempts to make sense of them are ridiculous, or 2) my preferred reading obviously, they are making oblique references to some of the tensions around ‘youth’ encoded in pop from the start: given that pop has very often been a matter of 40/50somethings producing songs sung by 20/30somethings pretending to be teenagers, and was by the early 90s approaching its own 40th birthday and increasingly consumed by 20/30/40somethings remembering their own youth through the medium; and also given that the singer/musician living the bohemian/teenage promise of pop music on behalf of their audience (but also in implied critique of their safe compromises) has been a popular cultural trope since at least the 1830s.

    At which point the bellowed communal singalong chorus that has so sharply divided opinions here can be seen as either desperately drowning out the tensions alluded to in the verses; or as a vehicle to smuggle them in, depending on your preferences.

  75. 75
    Mark G on 10 Feb 2012 #

    Their parents married young, had to be old before their time, but now they are relaxed in each others company now that the kids have left. The kid, in this case, sees them now as likeable, loveable, whereas when they were living in the parental home the kid resented the parental control limitations too much to love them unconditionally. Now that they have a distance, and the parents have that space also, they have a warmer relationship. And a jaunty violin.

  76. 76
    Kit on 11 Feb 2012 #

    occasionally the crossover would go the other way, with people who’d skilled up on hacking jingles deciding to have a swing at pop music, and connecting – eg: The Firm, of Arthur Daley (E’s Alright) and Star Trekkin’, and the Beatmasters, of Cookie Crew / Betty Boo / MC Merlin / JC 001 collabo singles.

  77. 77
    Auntie Beryl on 7 Jan 2013 #

    Digging up this conversation after the best part of a year as I work my way backwards through posts, I’m slightly surprised no-one drew a link from Young At Heart forward to Mumford & Sons, early Noah And The Whale, and similar corporo-raggle-pop merchants. It’s more of a feel than a direct sonic lift, for sure. But what an appalling feel it is.

  78. 78
    Lee Saunders on 16 Jun 2019 #

    Re:Now 24 CD1 track list. That’s one of the best ever Now discs for me, and one of the only ones where I’d skip nothing (Now 17 CD2 is another). CD2 is also quite good but not as much, and it probably would have made more sense for Young at Heart and Labour of Love to go on CD2 in exchange for Sweet Harmony and I Feel You, but either is good for me. If CD1 is a standard Radio 1 playlist for its time as Marcello suggests then its a damn good one, because the 1992 Nows, often good though they are, seem like a missed opportunity to me, the generally not very vivacious adult pop throughout Now 23 in particular exemplifying what I’d have expected Radio 1 to be like in 1992.

    The comments about greatest hits-propelled reissues appearing has got me thinking about how well hit albums at the time fared on the track list. The albums chart in early 1993 is a rather odd place, with The The, the Beloved and Belly all bagging number 2 albums though only the Beloved featuring on Now 24. And though the Sister Sledge/Hue and Cry/Ultravox best of reissue hits turn up on the track list, the re-release of the Cult’s She Sells Sanctuary doesn’t despite trawling a number 1 greatest hits album. Despite being on Warner Bros, R.E.M.’s inclusion on Now 25 and 26 suggests that something like Man on the Moon would have fit nicely. Also overlooked and fortunately so is the existence of Little Angels, whose Jam is a contender for the most forgotten number one album of the last 30 years. Of course, no Animal Nitrate on there either.

  79. 79
    Tom R. on 1 May 2020 #

    In re: Mark G.’s comment (#75, 10 feb 2012)

    This is the absolute best description of the Bluebells version that I have seen. Perfectly and succinctly captures the emotional drive of their version. Thanks.

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